WFP operational update: DR Congo

As insecurity rises ahead of DRC's election on July 30, WFP is distributing food aid to internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the northeast province of Ituri as well as returnees in Katanga province in the southeast.

Introduction

As insecurity rises ahead of DRC's election on July 30, WFP is distributing food aid to internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the northeast province of Ituri as well as returnees in Katanga province in the southeast.

Ituri province, northeast DRC

At Dele, six kilometres from Bunia in northeast DRC, WFP has distributed two weeks' food rations to 8,900 people displaced by recent fighting between DRC armed forces (FARDC) and the Congolese Revolutionary Movement (MRC) -- a movement created in Kampala last June to regroup fighters from different militias in Ituri province.

In total, more than 37 metric tons of maize flour, beans, vegetable oil and salt were handed out through WFP's humanitarian partners.

Another two-weeks of rations have also been distributed to more than 30,000 IDPs at Gethy, 60 km from Bunia. Families took shelter in Gethy after attacks by MRC militias on FARDC troops.

WFP also provided one metric ton of corn-soya-blend, pulses, maise meal, sugar, oil and salt to Medecins Sans Frontieres in Gethy last week, ready for distribution to 400 hospital inpatients, including malnourished children. MSF warned that child malnutrition was increasing in the area.

More distributions will take place in the coming weeks at Kotoni (12 km from Bunia) and Komanda (80 km), home to 7,000 and 8,200 internally displaced persons (IDPs) respectively.

In Ituri, more than 120,000 IDPs rely on food aid for survival every month.

Security/Elections

Insecurity remains a major obstacle to distributing food aid in DRC, forcing WFP suspend its deliveries one week ahead of the forthcoming elections

In the East, WFP trucks often need to travel with an escort from MONUC, the UN peacekeeping mission in DRC.

The road network is another logistical obstacle, forcing humanitarian workers to use planes to travel around the country.

Katanga province, southeast DRC

As security improves in Katanga following the surrender of Mayi-mayi warlord Gedeon to UN peacekeepers, the province's estimated 130,000 IDPs are returning home. An inter-agency mission is currently on the ground in Katanga assessing the needs of returnees.

WFP will use food aid to help thousands of returnees from Dubie and Sampwe rebuild their old communities. Most have found their houses burnt to the ground -- caught in the crossfire between Gedeon's troops and the FARDC during their Nov 2005-Feb 2006 clashes.

To help local farmers prepare for next February's vital harvest, FAO will provide seeds and faming utensils for the planting season. In some villages, 90 percent of the fields have been destroyed.

Most of the villages in this province are only accessible by motorbike. WFP is considering Food for Work projects - such as the renovation of bridges - to improve access but, if funds are available, the agency might have to resort to airdrops to deliver some 1,500 tonnes of food aid.

Last April, airdrops allowed the agency to build-up several months' reserve of food stocks in Katanga. Two rub halls, mobile warehouses with a capacity of 400 metric tons each, have been set up in Mitwaba.

In June, more than 81,300 IDPs received food aid from WFP in Katanga.

Funding shortage

WFP requires US$253 million to fund its DRC operations, which will target 1.7 million IDPs from July 2006 to June 2007. But, to date, the agency has only received US$147 million, leaving a shortfall of US$106 million or 42 percent.

In many cases, the lack of contributions has forced WFP to cut ration sizes from one month to two-weeks.

North Kivu

In Goma, WFP has distributed nine metric tons of food aid to 600 ex-child soldiers hosted in transit centres run by the regional non-governmental organisations SOS Grands lacs and Caritas.

The children receive literacy lessons as well as training in agriculture and cattle breeding. At the end of the programme they are reunited with their families.

Although Conader, the Congolese’s army disarmament programme, has stopped, WFP is still providing food for NGOs involved in transit centres for ex-child soldiers.